Paul Draper


I wasn’t sure I’d ever see this to be honest. Paul Draper, former lead singer of britpop heroes Mansun, on stage, not only armed with some solo material but also ready to deploy the entirety of Mansun’s debut album Attack of the Grey Lantern (AOTGL) for the first time after a it won a fan vote online. Draper, you see, hadn’t released any material since Mansun split up in 2003, and despite frequent teases to Mansun fans across the years, it looked like he might not do anything in the world of music again.

But then he started writing again, and in 2013 he said we would give some “very serious consideration” to releasing solo material, and it took until 2016 for his debut solo album Spooky Action to come out, to much excitement. Then he started play live again, and all was right with the world, and then he promised to play whichever Mansun album the fans voted for in full on this tour, and a lot of Mansun fans’ dreams were coming true.

So here we are at the Ritz, crowd of a very certain age, tingling with the anticipation of seeing one of the best albums of the 90s played in full. First up though, is Draper’s well received solo material, in a set he himself admits “is just the support act for the main event later”, which does himself a bit of a disservice as he’s got some strong songs. Opener ‘Don’t Poke The Bear’ with an extended jam freak out intro is a banger, and ‘Grey House’ is all taut atmosphere and whirling synths, a new sound for Draper that he wears well. A lot has been made of his acrimony towards his former band mates, and his solo album barely tries to conceal it; when introducing ‘Friends Make The Worst Enemies’, he deadpans that it’s for “any c*nts you’ve ever met in your life”, and when he sits down with an acoustic guitar for the ‘stool section’ (“Noel Gallagher and Richard Ashcroft do it, so fuck it!”) to sing ‘Jealously Is A Powerful Emotion’, it’s clear who it’s aimed at. Draper’s voice is still in magnificent form, his falsetto is crisp and thrilling to hear in the live arena, and this ‘warm up set’ has increased the anticipation for AOTGL to fever pitch.

After a brief break we’re on to the seminal AOTGL set and as soon as those strings introduce ‘The Chad Who Loved Me’, a cheeky take on a Bond theme, the crowd go mad with whoops of pure delight. It’s so pleasing to hear these songs live, for me for the first time ever (I was a bit young to be venturing out to gigs when it came out), that from the very first note to the last, I have a stupid grin plastered all over my face. There are many highlights along the way; ‘Taxloss’ is magnificent, the players he’s assembled tight AF as they sit in for his former band mates, Draper’s voice hitting it out of the park; ‘Disgusting’ is still full of brio and menace, and ‘Naked Twister’ is as epic as it ever was. The full highlight is hearing the undeniable ‘Wide Open Space’ sung by 1500 eager fans, one of the best songs of the Britpop era, and one of the best songs full stop, heartily sung back at Draper who looks utterly delighted with the reception he’s getting. It’s one of those gigs where everyone is having a completely joyous time, and the atmosphere in the venue is one of pure goodwill towards Draper who has made many of these fan’s dreams come true with this performance.

Towards the end, a fan shouts for a song from Mansun’s magnum opus Six, the concept album that would ultimately set them on the road to tearing themselves apart, and Draper replies that “we’re not doing that one, but maybe I’ll come back and do that album too”, and the response is such that I’m surprised he wasn’t selling tickets for it on the way out. On the strength of this admittedly retro-looking nostalgia trip, I’ll be first in line to witness that too. Welcome back Paul, it’s been an absolutely pleasure.

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